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BWW Interviews: Nigel Lythgoe Reveals Big Changes for New Season of AMERICAN IDOL, Premiering Tonight!

Related: AMERICAN IDOL, FOX, Reality TV, Interview

He continues, "Each one of the judges I think is looking for something else this year...I think Nicki is looking for an artist. I think Mariah is looking for the complete singer/songwriter. Randy is looking for somebody that sings on pitch, and Keith isn't just looking for a country star. Keith is looking for an instrumentalist, a good singer, and somebody that can capture that sort of magic charisma, if you will, and connect with the public. They all have their own agendas."

As far as celebrity judges and guest mentor appearances Lythgoe reveals, "Jimmy Lovine is coming back and I do want to go back to where we actually used record producers to help the kids. I want to do that again this year and try and give their journey the same journey that they would have had had they had not had this competition but moved in to the music business. The more I can align it to the music business the stronger it is going to be for them and their journey."

Season 12, contestants will have a lot to live up to if compared to last year's champion Phillip Phillips, whose debut single, 'Home' has soared to the top of the charts. Yet despite that initial success, Lithgoe is reluctant to declare him a bona fide star. "Certainly that song has been one of the biggest but Phillip's still got to prove himself. We can't just sort of jump up and down and go, 'Wow. He's a major star now.' There's a long way to go to be the next Carrie Underwood who's sustained so well, Kelly Clarkson who's sustained so well."

What is the secret to winning American Idol? Lithgoe has his own theory. "It isn't always about the voice," he begins. "It is about charisma, it is about personality, it is about attracting an audience and doing that week on week. If there was an absolute formula to stick to in order to win American Idol we'd have probably found it by now, bottled it, and I'm sure one of the production companies would be selling it but we haven't. It's really what grabs you. Does the story grab you? Does the song of the week grab you? It's a difficult one."

"At the end of the day," he concludes, "when you've got five guys and five girls... it's anybody's game at that stage."

The two night season premiere of American Idol kicks off on Wednesday, January 16th with auditions in New York and Thursday, January 17th with auditions in Chicago both beginning at 8/7c on Fox.

"Like" American Idol on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AmericanIdol. Follow the series on Twitter @AmericanIdol and join the discussion at #idol.

Photos courtesy of FOX

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